Fake Voter Fraud Commission Gets Real Pushback

Paris  On the eve of Independence Day in the United States, President Trump and his Kansas pistolero, Kris Kobach, who is ramrodding his fake voting commission, are getting a course in good old, American civics. Part of the lesson is about voting rights and the scrutiny of the ballot box, but the other part is that politics is not a zero-sum game: if Trump and Kobach win, then hundreds of local elected officials who administered voting lose.

States throughout the country have been pooh-poohing the Trump gang claim that there is voting fraud of any kind on their watch, much less that millions upon millions of undocumented folks swarmed the polls and skewed the results. One after another when contacted by authorities, reporters, and researchers have flatly stated, no, way.

The Commission acting from the bully pulpit, sent out a request for all the election officials for a ton of information, including social security numbers and other very private and privileged information. In ironic resistance, almost half of the states simply ignored the request and refused to send the information along. Some didn’t just ignore the letter, but scoffed at it in open rebellion, and this wasn’t just the usual bi-coastal suspects either. Arkansas and Louisiana haven’t figured out how they are going to handle what everyone sees as an overreach, but Mississippi was even more forthright. The top election official there said the commission could jump “into the Gulf of Mexico,” and furthermore that his state, lying along the Gulf, was a perfect place to jump from.

Of course rather than President Trump keeping quiet about the fact that he and Kobach’s snipe hunt has been exposed as just that, instead unleashes some of his terrible tweets, even in the midst of a media war with some morning show hosts for some inexplicable reason, conjuring up the charges of misogyny that roiled his campaign regularly. His tweets, predictably asked the resisters, “what did they have to hide.”

Earlier I mentioned that this was a good civics lesson about how politics really works when you are the ox trying to gore smaller oxen on the local field. I should clarify that saying this is a lesson, does not mean that Trump and Kobach will learn anything or pass the test, but as all of us who made it through public school know, just being taught the lesson does not guarantee a passing grade. Sometimes we ace it. Sometimes we flunk.

There is a last bit of irony here though. Kris Kobach, serving as Secretary of State in Kansas, and promulgating this mischief as clerk of the works for this Commission, is also not providing the records requested for voters from Kansas either. State law in Kansas forbids sending this kind of personal information to anyone. Other states do as well.

Pay attention in class, Donald and Kris, this is going to be a question on the test.

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Trump’s Broken Promise, Cavalier Giveaway of Basic Healthcare to the Rightwing

New Orleans   Incredibly after all of the promises of a better healthcare program, all the President wants now is a sale, no matter how shoddy the merchandise. This is the short con. Meeting with the so-called Freedom Caucus, he agreed to get rid of the Affordable Care Act’s “essential health benefits” guaranteed to everyone as part of the basic health plan regardless of cost. This doesn’t include the caps on senior pay, the ability to cover children under parents policies until 26, or the waivers for pre-existing benefits all of which this bill is also giving away or the fact that his concession bargaining has now lowered the supposed savings by more than half.

Regardless, let’s just review the ten essential benefits that all Americans stand to lose as a reminder of why this entire package should be dead-on-arrival to the Senate, if it ever makes it there.

The Affordable Care Act’s Ten Essential health benefits include:

  • Ambulatory patient services (Outpatient care). Care you receive without being admitted to a hospital, such as at a doctor’s office, clinic or same-day (“outpatient”) surgery center. Also included in this category are home health services and hospice care.
  • Emergency Services (Trips to the emergency room). Care you receive for conditions that could lead to serious disability or death if not immediately treated, such as accidents or sudden illness. Typically, this is a trip to the emergency room and includes transport by ambulance. You cannot be penalized for going out-of-network or for not having prior authorization.
  • Hospitalization (Treatment in the hospital for inpatient care). Care you receive as a hospital patient, including care from doctors, nurses and other hospital staff, laboratory and other tests, medications you receive during your hospital stay, and room and board. Hospitalization coverage also includes surgeries, transplants and care received in a skilled nursing facility, such as a nursing home that specializes in the care of the elderly.
  • Maternity and newborn care. Care that women receive during pregnancy (prenatal care), throughout labor, delivery, and post-delivery, and care for newborn babies.
    Mental health services and addiction treatment. Inpatient and outpatient care provided to evaluate, diagnose and treat a mental health condition or substance abuse disorder. This includes behavioral health treatment, counseling, and psychotherapy.
  • Prescription drugs. Medications that are prescribed by a doctor to treat an illness or condition. At least one prescription drug must be covered for each category and classification of federally approved drugs.
  • Rehabilitative services and devices – Rehabilitative services (help recovering skills, like speech therapy after a stroke) and habilitative services (help developing skills, like speech therapy for children) and devices to help you gain or recover mental and physical skills lost to injury, disability or a chronic condition (this also includes devices needed for “habilitative reasons”). Plans have to provide 30 visits each year for either physical or occupational therapy, or visits to the chiropractor. Plans must also cover 30 visits for speech therapy as well as 30 visits for cardiac or pulmonary rehab.
    Laboratory services. Testing provided to help a doctor diagnose an injury, illness or condition, or to monitor the effectiveness of a particular treatment. Some preventive screenings, such as breast cancer screenings and prostrate exams, are provided free of charge.
  • Preventive services, wellness services, and chronic disease treatment. This includes counseling, preventive care, such as physicals, immunizations, and screenings, like cancer screenings, designed to prevent or detect certain medical conditions. Also, care for chronic conditions, such as asthma and diabetes.
  • Pediatric services. Care provided to infants and children, including well-child visits and recommended vaccines and immunizations. Dental and vision care must be offered to children younger than 19. This includes two routine dental exams, an eye exam and corrective lenses each year.

Read and weep. Listen and pick up the phone and call Washington. Now!

***

Please enjoy Blondie’s Long Time.

Thanks to KABF.

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Suggestions for the Anti-Inaugural

just some of the protests

Puerto Aventuras   Charles Blow, Louisiana native, New York Times columnist, and committed Trump resistor, wrote a piece on the Anti-Inauguration, as he called it. Blow made sure to point out that everyone needed to keep it positive, etc, etc, so that he could keep his day job, and you could keep yours in the uncertainty of regime change, but he threw a laundry list out there: protest, volunteer, donate, subscribe, read, watch, write, and connect.

Ok, some of this is a bit lame and spitting-in-the-wind, but his heart is good and his anger is real. Subscribe is about keeping the press alive. Read was a mild antidote to fake news. Watch was really just donate under another subhead and involved a California telethon or some such. Write is old school sending letters or emails to your local Congressperson, although between the lines Blow seems to be advocating a bit of hounding and stalking in this area, since he says, “Make them remember your name,” and that involves some persistence if you’re not sending them a big check. Connect is about lobbying your close friends and family, so good luck with that, but I would add that you should make sure you keep the paths cleared and the bridges in good repair so that you can make more progress once some smoke clears and the Trump body count builds and comes closer to home.

Now, protest, well that’s an opportunity worth a look in DC and closer to home, but frankly it’s not really enough, and I have to be honest with you, I’m not sure it’s effective right this minute. Take the Women’s March which is projected at one-hundred to two-hundred thousand, which is great, but from all reports, no demands, which makes it something of a “I am Woman, Watch me Roar” thing. That’s not bad of course, and certainly appropriate, but…there’s no way to get around the fact that protests, to be something more than symbolic, need real targets, real issues, where we can point out the rightness, and even morality of our cause, and where we are committed to hanging in until we win. There will be plenty of opportunities to come. In fact more than any of us – and our organizations – can handle.

Which brings me to “volunteer.” With tongue in cheek I’ve been talking about ACORN and our “volunteer army” for years, but I think there’s a lot that is real in that. My work in the Netherlands over the last quarter of 2016 convinced me of how much can be done when you can put up to 1000 volunteers to work on a campaign. ACORN’s own work around hospital accountability in the USA, electric cooperatives in the rural South, analysis of Bollere scandals in Africa, and banking practices in the United Kingdom has all been done 100% by volunteers. We are finding in our tenant organizing in Scotland and England that volunteers are able to organize new chapters all around the country and take action. I’ve touted the new book by Zack Exley and Betsy Bond on their experience with the Sanders’ campaign which points real directions in this area. If a couple of hundred to a thousand people would agree to volunteer even 20 hours a month, we could organize something different in this country, so, hey, call me maybe!

And, on the “donate” suggestion, I’m all for that, too, go directly to ACORN International  and it will show you how, and muchas gracias!

But, some things not on Blow’s list that anyone can do should include speaking out and reaching out.

Speaking out is hard, but it can’t be someone else’s job. It must be everyone’s responsibility now, and can’t be left to the victims. Injustice must be confronted and can’t be ignored, particularly when it is expressed as racism and misogyny. It’s time for no more Mr. or Ms. Nice on this. When it shows its face, it has to be named, shamed, and stopped.

Reaching out is going to be necessary for everyone as well. There will be millions of victims hit by the train wrecks coming our way from Washington soon. People are going to need help. It’s going to be complicated, obfuscated, and confusing. People are going to need a hand navigating the future for themselves and their families. Reaching out, you could make a difference. Find a way.

There’s no disagreement with Charles Blow on one count. There’s plenty to be done, and the time is now.

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Everyone is Failing at the Electoral College

New Orleans   The Electoral College is meeting. There might be some momentary rumpus and some protests, but this deal is done. Trump’s claim to a landslide is more fake news of course. Counting the totals of 58 elections for president, Trump’s victory will rank as the 47th lowest in the list. His margin of the popular vote will be the 47th lowest of the last 49 elections, since he lost that vote to Hillary Clinton by more than 2 million votes.

This doesn’t seem like the way a democracy should work, but that is exactly how the founding fathers wanted this to work. They weren’t confused. They, like Trump, wanted to claim we had a democracy, while making sure that the elites could still imbalance the scales. Protecting slavery was part of it as well, especially when it came to the 1850 Compromise.

Reading the outrage of some electors shouting that they didn’t want California and New York to decide the election with their huge populations, but wanted to make sure that Alaska and Vermont were important as well, contains plenty of irony, since the historic compromise that led to the final say and balloting in the Electoral College was intended to make sure that Virginia, the big dog running at the time, was still able to be a kingmaker even as other states were coming in with large populations in the future. A lot of the heavy hitters of the colonial era were of course from Virginia, like Washington, Madison, and Jefferson. Such a deal could be made then because the elites wanted to make sure the rabble didn’t always carry the day and threaten their position and privilege.

The complaint that the Electoral College isn’t fair or democratic is simply a statement of fact. It wasn’t intended to be. It was intended to maintain the status quo and protect the power. Now it’s like a bad smoking habit that no one seems to be able to quit, no matter how bad it is for the country. When the Democrats win, they like it. When the Republicans win, they like it, and having won two elections in recent years while losing the popular vote, they like it a whole heckuva lot.

Having a president who lost the popular vote is not the only flaw of course. The fact that the game is only settled at the Electoral College creates the democratic deformity of assigning disproportionate status to “battleground states,” based on their electoral vote weight. The dominant parties can strategize about where to campaign and spend money on a calculus that assumes “firewall” states that are dependably red or blue, and voters in the battleground states in many ways get to see a real campaign and have their votes count more heavily. Of course to Trump’s credit he proved that the firewalls for the Democrats in the Midwest were paper thin and not to any builder’s code, and he burned right through them. Better for a democracy to have a truly national campaign where all votes are equal.

The reports that there were less than 80 allegations of voter fraud out of more than 137 million votes cast might prove that the US elections are about as fair and square as possible. Some might think this would calm down some of the rush to tighten rules and access, but the Electoral College opportunity for minority parties to win, incentivizes voter suppression, particularly in battleground states, but generally everywhere, in order to depress the popular vote and have a shot at the prize.

There’s no sign of any real effort to ditch the Electoral College, but it has become a bleeding scar on the heart of any claim of an American democracy.

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Trump May Be Rebuilding the Women’s Movement

from bitchmedia.com

from bitchmedia.com

New Orleans    In spite of himself Donald Trump may launch a sea change in the way that American women are dealt with in both private and public by serving as a poster boy for how much American men say they have changed, and how little they have actually changed. He has made no special effort to make this huge contribution. He has just done what comes naturally to him.

I didn’t watch the debate. I saw a soundless minute or two changing airplanes around the world. Just enough to see Trump talking and Clinton grinning like the cat who had swallowed the canary. I have never seen the word “manterruption” before, and I may be misspelling it and not saying it correctly now, but thanks to thousands of stories about the most watched debate in US-history, all of us immediately know what it means and how it works. Women are rallying behind the banner of “I told you so,” with fingers pointed at Trump’s performance and his constant efforts to talk over Clinton, to interrupt her as she spoke, and uncontrollably feel driven to respond, even unwisely, to her points.

Single-handedly, Trump has proven why no amount of “leaning in” will ever work with many men, especially those with wealth and power, because they just don’t respect or care what women have say. Period. They like the eye candy, but such men don’t want a whole lot more than that.

And, as Trump has abundantly proven, such men and many, many like them it seems from the level of his continued support, will say they love women and shout down any naysayers, but when it comes right down to it they don’t know what to do with them or have much interest in figuring it out. For Trump and his team it’s still the 50’s, and it’s a man’s world. They never understood the rest of the James Brown line that “it would be nothing without a woman or a girl.”

In the same way that Black Lives Matter and the ruthlessness of police has grabbed the country by the shirt collar and shaken the pretense of progress on race to reveal how much systemic racism is still crippling the country, Trump will launch a million water cooler and kitchen table discussions about how deep seeded sexism remains throughout the country, high and low. In voices soft and loud, there will be tens of millions of women reminding men to not “go Trump” on them when they have something to say and need to be heard. Those women will find the opportunity to remind the men in their lives, sons, brothers, partners, and colleagues that they need to get right on this issue before they humiliate themselves and become pariahs among women. You know, like Trump did.

That’s the problem with this whole fake issue of “political correctness.” That’s camouflage being worn by Trump and some of his supporters as a claim that the problem is language, and not the beliefs themselves. No matter what lipstick you put on a pig, it’s still a pig. No matter how you dress up sexism and racism, these diseases are still viral it seems throughout our society, and Trump is proving in his candidacy and campaign that they are popular and pronounced. Every time he opens his mouth, interrupts, and spouts his “tell it like it is” racism and misogyny, he is also sending messages that repel good people everywhere and move them to recoil in horror and humiliation, and vow to change themselves and force others to do so as well.

When all of this is said and done, we may owe him some inadvertent and unearned thanks for showing all of us how we should never be and helping those silenced to raise their voices for change.

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Koch Brothers Teach Community Organizing

grassroots-leadership-academy900x507px-opt_0New Orleans   This is scary, and not because it’s the devil trying on a pair of angel wings, but because it’s reads like it is smart, comprehensive and effective. I’m talking about the fact that the Koch Brothers are looking past Trump and 2016, win or lose, and going for the long term victories at the grassroots level by implementing a training program to develop activists and, gulp, community organizers. They appear to have picked up our playbook, financed it, and are getting ready to run way past us!

An extensive report in the New York Times detailed the work of their “secret weapon,” the Grassroots Leadership Academy, a division of Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the political education arm of the Koch network. The curriculum appropriates “Saul Alinsky, the Marxist-inspired Frankfurt School, and even President Obama’s Organizing for Action.” This program isn’t small potatoes either. They claim to have held training sessions since February 2015 in three dozen states that have been attended by 10,000 people at a cost to the Koch’s of a bit more than $3 million which the intend to scale up even bigger in 2017 and beyond.

Here’s what’s worse. In many ways, they “get it” about community organizing. Maybe even more than progressives do these days.

Listen to Levi Russell, Americans for Prosperity’s communications director:

“We want a cultural shift of people being able to know what they want and how to talk to the people in their communities, so that in the future, when there are political leaders that want to demagogue free-market issues, they do hit resistance.”

With all of the discussion about the impact of demagoguery on the natural, working class base of the Democratic Party, wonder why they don’t understand this?

Listen to Slade O’Brien, vice president of the Grassroots Leadership Academy about what he learned from progressive political tactics:

”It was incredibly relationship-driven; it was truly at the grass-roots level. And they didn’t have to agree on everything to agree to work on something – that incremental victories matter, and they would work on those rather than swing for the fences and try to hit a home run.”

This is scary. They do have an understanding of the basics of community organizing, and they are making it their tool!

O’Brien added, astutely, that “You can’t just show up at somebody’s door six weeks before an election and build a relationship with them…” Like I say, he gets it, and if he gets it, the benefits are going to accrue to conservatives of the Koch stripe.

This is smart strategy, just like any national community organizing strategy. The Koch’s are trying to plant organizers all around the country. They are giving them tools, including how to attract media and use props in demonstrations. Sure not all of this will work. Not every root will branch, but if they keep this up, they will develop a more effective grassroots base and plant their own forest around the country. I would guarantee that.

You have to wonder: why aren’t we doing this?

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